By Michelle Yang
The whole room is silent, including the parents in the bleachers and the two swim teams flanking the long sides of the pool. It is so quiet that you could almost hear the drops of water slip off the edge of the diving board, sending minute ripples through the still water. A girl stands on the precipice of the diving board. “Just like practice, Angelina, just like practice,” she thinks. Even though it’s not cold, she shivers.
It all started three years ago, with a friendship sustained through a father and a swim coach. Freshman Angelina L’s father was a friend of Coach Hu, a man who had coached two Chinese Olympic swim teams; the two had played pingpong together. “My dad asked whether I wanted to do diving, and I was like, ‘Ok, sure!’” Angelina recalled.
Initially, Angelina practiced diving once or twice a week, but as she became more serious, practice evolved into everyday occurrences. Currently, Angelina dives with both the NY Dive club, whose twohour practices take place at Fordham University in the Bronx, and South’s girls’ varsity swim team. Angelina’s hard work has paid off. At her first high school meet against Manhasset, Angelina broke South’s diving record of 192.15 points with a score of 209. At her second meet in Long Beach, Angelina beat her newly established record, earning a total of 235 points.
However, despite her accomplishments, Angelina has mixed feelings about diving. “I don’t really enjoy competing,” she confessed. “It’s really scary just going to regular practice, too.” It’s not only the pressure that makes her nervous before dives. She has hit the board a few times on back dives, and smacking the water is a regular occurrence. “In the beginning, I wasn’t scared of diving,” said Angelina. “But after awhile, you develop a fear.”
Her coaches frequently tell her to do new, harder dives, which she finds annoying and pressuring. Angelina finds back dives difficult because she has hit her head on the board more than three times before. “If you’re scared of [the dive], then it makes it a lot more difficult to bring yourself to do it,” said Angelina. Angelina also finds twisters, a kind dive, hard because she finds them hard to control.
Angelina’s parents motivate her diving. Although she has tried to quit a few times, her parents inevitably “bring up the future talk,” figuring that it will help her be successful in the future.
In truth, diving has brought Angelina new opportunities. Her summer diving club travels to Shanghai, China, every year – she has made the journey three times – training at the very same facilities that China’s national team uses. With access to better equipment and trampolines, many boards, and a professional coach, it is fun even for Angelina. But practices are eight hours every day—two hours in the morning, four hours in the afternoon, and sometimes, another two hours at night.
Other than diving, Angelina also plays lacrosse and practices gymnastics. In eighth grade, she played on the middle school’s field hockey team, which she really enjoyed. She had hoped to join the high school team this year, but because field hockey and swimming are in the same season, she was unable to.
In the end, diving is the one thing Angelina knows she must focus on, which doesn’t leave her much free time or mental space, preventing her from doing much of anything else. But “when [diving is] not [causing pressure], it’s fun. And the sport itself? It’s all right,” Angelina said. “I just like moving and getting active.”
So as she stands on the edge of the diving board, she takes a breath. In a short rush of adrenaline—which she associates with skydiving—she sees blue, the ceiling, and then it’s all over.